18 Jan 2024

“Europe should dedicate 25% of its budget to emerging technologies”

With the EU elections this year, the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU is set to be a decisive one. It is up to the Belgians to ensure a smooth transition between the current mandate and the next one. But that’s not all.

So, what else is in store over the next six months? We talked about it with Floriane de Kerchove, DIGITALEUROPE’s Vice-President and EU affairs lead at our Belgian member Agoria. For her, competitiveness should be high on the agenda. The same goes for pushing for a more global Europe and boosting EU funds for tech innovators.

Floriane de Kerchove, EU affairs lead Agoria

Question: What should Belgium’s EU Presidency priorities be?

Answer: The top priority should be competitiveness. They must start with the strategy announced by the Commission, to cut 25% of red tape.

Also, we have had a tsunami of new regulations, many of them digital, and ensuring their harmonised implementation is crucial to avoid a GDPR scenario (whereby many smaller companies were caught unaware). We need to make sure that member states understand how new laws work and that they implement them in a coordinated way.

Finally, we will have a new Commission mandate after the Belgian presidency, so together with the Commission and the member states Belgium must have a key role to play in the transition and the new (digital) priorities. 

Q: What can Europe learn from Belgium’s current digitalisation strategy & policies?

Answer: One of the big priorities of the next commission will be to reach a series of targets: for skills, for the integration of new technologies such as AI, cloud, and so on.

Belgium can help, for example, in skills. Agoria has conducted a study called ‘Be the change’, where we identified the new jobs that will appear by 2030 and the jobs that will disappear. Based on that, policymakers should then set a new policy for skills training and for the job market. I think the EU Commission should use this study and apply it at the EU level.

Belgium has also developed a program to help companies identify the potential of AI and data, putting them in contact with other private actors afterwards. This program, too, can be an inspiration for the EU to reach the 75% target of AI, data, and cloud adoption by 2030. 

Q: The State of the Digital Decade report showed that we’re not on track to achieve any of those targets. It also showed that the EU’s share of global revenue in the digital market has fallen by 10%. Why is this happening?

Answer: First of all, what are the reasons we are losing ground? One of them is that in Europe we have a fragmented market, we don’t have a single market like in the US and China. So, it’s much more difficult for companies here.

Second, if you look at unicorns, Europe only has 8% of them worldwide. In the US and China, they support both scale-ups and startups much more than we do, for instance by having less regulation.

We Europeans tend to regulate too much and too fast, whereas in other continents innovation comes first and then they see whether it’s necessary to have a new regulation.¨ 

“We Europeans tend to regulate too much and too fast, whereas in other continents innovation comes first”

Q: Our recently launched manifesto for the new commission outlines 20 solutions to fix these issues and make Europe a digital powerhouse by 2030. According to you, how do we get there?

Answer: We need to reduce the fragmentation of the single market. And here I think data is a good example of how technology can fix that. Data should be the fifth freedom of Europe.

We also have to boost investment and capacity in digital technologies. Europe should dedicate 25% of its funding to emerging technologies, because digital is all over, in all sectors. Lastly, we must work towards a global Europe, a Europe that is open to the world.

This is done by boosting our transatlantic relations, strengthening collaboration with the US, and creating a more extended network of countries working with digital. 

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